MMORPG: Tell us a bit about Ukkonen: where he comes from, what his deal is, and all of that.
DEREK ARABIAN: Ukkonen is a new character soon to be released in the Rise of Immortals game. He is an extremely young elemental given birth by the chaotic energies released during the shattering of the Graxian crystals. Growing up in such a chaotic and war torn realm has caused him to mature very early, and he fights in the war only so that it can end all the more quickly. As an elemental he fights with blades made of energy in melee range, all the while utilizing lightning magic to disintegrate his foes.
MMORPG: He’s a magic-melee user… which confused me at first. But then I started picturing Bruce Leeroy from Barry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, and I got more confused. So, for people like myself, can you explain how Ukkonen will fight in RoI?
DEREK ARABIAN: As the designer of Ukkonen, one of the things I wanted to capture was the flavor of instability and constant change in a thunderstorm. One of the interesting mechanics that arose from this is that Ukkonen becomes more powerful the more you have been moving around between your attacks. This Static Charge ability becomes the core of Ukkonen’s gameplay, and really defined his capabilities as an assassin and chaser.
While playing Ukkonen there is always a dynamic struggle going on between your decision to attempt to land a long range stun with Twisted bolts then following up for maximum damage versus going in more directly with Static Charge and Rising Storm’s mobility effects, but it will cost some of your maximum damage capability.
MMORPG: What are your hopes for the way in which Ukkonen will shake up team-builds in the game? The first character of his kind means he’s likely going to throw people for a loop for a while.
DEREK ARABIAN: Ukkonen is unique in that he will be one of the first immortals to provide high, sustained magical damage output which will probably shake up the defensive item choices people will buy. I expect after his inclusion people will need to be more reactive in their item builds than set in the current trend of maximizing hit points and armor. His inclusion also increases the number of champions any given team can have to fulfill the magical damage component of the team, and more variety among champion choices is a good thing.
MMORPG: Are you at all worried that his implementation will imbalance the game at all?
DEREK ARABIAN: As a developer I think the concern about imbalance is always lingering there in the back of your mind. The thing is that a game like this can never be perfectly balanced and is always in a constant state of flux. Champions are discovered, play styles changed, meta-games shifted, power levels can seemingly change without any actual change to the numbers of the character.
So yes there is concern that Ukkonen might have balance issues, and even though we do as much internal balance testing as possible, sometimes things slip through or are overlooked and needs fixing. Luckily with a live environment like this, you can roll out a new patch within a week if there is something critically wrong, but typically issues are minor enough that it is possible to wait and take the time to properly evaluate the problems and solve them in a way that won’t cause a see-saw effect of balance.
MMORPG: How is Ukkonen indicative of the way in which you’ll be integrating new characters in the future? Wow… that seems like an odd question, but what I mean is: will we see more and more new types of combatants aimed at diversifying the types of teams we see in ROI?
DEREK ARABIAN: Yes, that is absolutely correct. With our initial characters we wanted to get enough champions out there to make the game fun and playable. Going forward though I want to introduce a lot more heroes who have more niche roles or more complex gameplay mechanics to increase the player’s choices when he chooses his immortal. Ideally everyone has at least one character that they just really love the playstyle and identify with, and that can only occur when you have a wide array of characters each with their own unique flavor.
MMORPG: Rise of Immortals entered into a very quickly crowding genre. It’s just getting more and more competitive, as MOBAs begin to transcend into their own MMO subgenre. How does ROI see itself in the field, and how does Petroglyph hope to keep the game growing as more and more types of games come onto the scene?
STEVE WETHERILL: RoI definitely offers some unique twists on the standard MOBA "champions + spells + items + lanes + creeps + towers" formula. While our core game definitely plays to those familiar themes, it is the meta game where things get more interesting. It's here that we offer persistent "leveling" on each Immortal, basically you can unlock new tiers of artifacts (persistent items) and allocate skill points in the offense, defense and champion trees allowing you to apply boosts to base stats or ability power; you can also unlock your 5th "signature" ability at level 21.
We also have a pretty interesting 3PvE scenario which uses completely different objectives to the PvP gameplay, and which we think appeals both the beginning players, who can get to grips with the game controls in a less competitive (dare we say casual) environment, and for experienced players who can hone their skills on new Immortals before heading out to battle in PvP. Going forward, we have plans for additional scenario types (we are testing one such game mode internally now), and there are plans to evolve the way matchmaking is presented by allowing tactical picking, while retaining persistent Immortal leveling.
MMORPG: Lastly, no pressure or anything, who’s your favorite character to play with personally? Don’t worry, we don’t use it as ammunition for our community to say he or she is OP’d.
DEREK ARABIAN: Personally, my favorite character to play is probably Lazarus. I love being the initiator in the team fight, and the capability for enticing enemies to over-commit into my invulnerable ultimate can win a lot of skirmishes and team fights.
STEVE WETHERILL: Lately I've been enjoying playing both Ichorr and Scorpix. Healing support characters tend to be more durable, but Ichorr can certainly rack up the kills and assists, especially with the Ensnaring Vines snare in conjunction with a lane partner. Scorpix is a personal favorite because he was the very first Immortal we had working in the game. He can do quite a bit of damage for a tank, and for me that is a fun combo.